by Lynne Connolly, historical (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-892-5
If you have read Lynne Connolly's A Chance To Dream, chances are you will remember Perdita Garland, the sister of the hero of that book. By the end of that book, Perdita has finally gotten over her self-pity blues about her legs being broken in an accident.
Now that she's back in the London ballrooms, she's getting her own story in Met By Chance. Her beau is Charles Dalton, the Marquess of Petherbridge. She knows that the Marquess - whose late wife was French and whose eccentricities are therefore attributed to his stay in France - is causing many tongues to wag in his rounds around town, but she doesn't know what to think about his whole rara avis androgynous popinjay exterior. Nonetheless, when his sister Millicent starts showing up in the company of Conrad Stalwood, the same sleazeball that caused Perdita's accident, Perdita feels obligated to warn Charles about the man his sister is flirting with.
There are more to this story than the above synopsis, mind you, with Perdita and Charles getting to know each other better in the meantime and all the charming scenes that result. What I really enjoy about Met By Chance is how Ms Connolly allows her characters to be who they are without forcing them too much to be cookie-cutter historical romance stereotypes. For example, Aimée is a spoiled little girl and Perdita, instead of putting on the Sainted Mother of the Year mantle that many other heroines would do, is actually not amused. She knows that Aimée needs a firm hand, but she doesn't volunteer to be that person. In fact, she finds Aimée a good reason not to get too close to Charles. That is a pretty understandable human reaction from Perdita, and I like that.
Perdita is a very nice heroine here as she is smart and strong-willed without pulling off any stupid stunts under the pretense of being feisty. She still has some lingering phobia related to her accident, but she's determined not to let anyone use her weakness against her. I also like how she approaches the possibility of a relationship with any eligible bachelors with a reasonable level-headed perspective instead of... well, pulling off stupid stunts like insisting that she will never marry only to sleep with the hero at the earliest opportunity or any similar nonsense. Really, Perdita is such a reasonable heroine here that I am totally charmed by her.
Charles is also a pretty nice hero. He is always so understanding, so communicative, and so noble, it is almost a pity that his background is that of a cliché of a cheating wife making him feel jaded about love. Nonetheless, it's really enjoyable to follow how he and Perdita get to know each other. There is a nice chemistry between them that is reminiscent of that of a couple in an Amanda Quick novel.
What I feel drags this book down considerably is the external conflict that takes place later in the story. Normally I'd consider this a spoiler but since the publisher website blurb mentions it, I suppose I can do that here as well. You see, Millicent decides to elope with Conrad and Conrad decides to kidnap Aimée to ensure that Charles will hand over a nice sum of money to the newlyweds after the elopement is a sealed deal. Perdita and Charles are forced to chase after those two and Aimée in a long road trip. The problem here is that Millicent and Conrad are one-dimensional hateful types that the story, as a result, turns into a one-dimensional good guys versus bad guys tale. After the initial three-dimensional characters raising my hopes for rich and complex emotional scenes, I am disappointed that it soon devolves into a rather mundane story driven by external conflicts and featuring cardboard villains. Not that Met By Chance is a bad read at this point, it's just a disappointingly ordinary one.
At the end of the day, as much as I have a good time reading Met By Chance, I can't help thinking that Charles and Perdita deserve a much better story than the one they are stuck with.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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